Praying in a Panic

Have you ever prayed in a panic? Desperate times drive some to desperate praying, of a sort.

A number of years ago I celebrated my birthday with a simple cruise on a tall ship in Lake Ontario. We boarded on a sunny day, sailed only a short distance, anchored and then sailed back. I doubt if many of us were praying while on board. In contrast, think of the Titanic or some other large ship about to sink on a tempestuous sea.  I doubt if many of the passengers are not praying.

As the ship carrying Jonah sailed from board out on the Mediterranean, the LORD sent a great wind and a violent storm threatened to break up the ship.  The seasoned sailors were gripped with fear and began to pray, each to ‘his own god.’ They tossed cargo into the sea to make the ship more buoyant and perhaps avert a disaster.

Some how Jonah slept through the storm. How was this possible?  Was his conscience so seared that nothing phased him. His deep sleep was interrupted by the captain who presses him into action.  “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god. Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.” Everyone has a ‘god,’ don’t they? People around the world worship a variety of deities and press them for response particularly during times of panic. 

Did Jonah pray at that point? The text is silent. Chapter 2 still lies ahead where he pours out his confession, petition and desperation to God from within the belly of the great fish.  But on deck, he declares his ‘faith’ in a remarkable testimony after the sailors determine by casting lots the onus of responsibility they had discovered. They peppered him with five rapid-fire questions urging him to ‘fess’ up and tell them all the cause of the storm which was threatening them all.

When do you pray? How do you pray? To whom do you pray? Prayer is a spiritual discipline which is a constant struggle, isn’t it? We may give assent to the importance of it, but how much time in a single day do we devote to adoration, confession, supplication and thanksgiving? 

We don’t have to wait for ‘panic’ situations to pray.  Let’s deepen the discipline while on shore so that when the storms come, prayer will be our default mode.  Lord, teach us to pray!

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